Some years ago, I saw a meme that said: ‘MARRIAGE: Betting someone half your shit that you’re going to love them forever‘.
I laughed. More nervously than I cared to admit at the time.
You see, (and I don’t know if you relate), despite feeling the happiest I had ever felt and being totally sure that he was ‘The One’, there was always this niggling feeling before I got married that perhaps I was just too happy; perhaps it was all too perfect; perhaps I was overplaying my hand…?
What I realised when I read this meme was that our love did, at some level, feel like a bet; a risk, a chance and deep, deep down, I honestly wasn’t sure the odds were in my favour…
Did I admit this? Hell no.
It was uncomfortable to admit it even to myself. Plus it was far nicer to concentrate on all the sensations of love and bliss and happiness that I was feeling at the time.
That niggling feeling sat inside me though, somewhere around the middle of my rib cage, for a few years. Right up until the point my marriage collapsed in fact.
Is Love a Game of Chance?
Several years later, I was reminded of this meme, and I got to thinking about the idea of your love relationship being a wager or a lottery. Perhaps a well-played game of chance. Are you really placing some sort of emotional Bet when you get Married? And how can we swing the odds to be completely in our favour? Is that even a thing?
So, just briefly, let’s look at some numbers… (& this isn’t altogether a comfortable read but there is a point so please, stay with me!),
Because purely from a statistical point of view, the odds are not stacked in your favour.
Historically, the odds of having a successful marriage are not good at all: nearly 50% of all marriages fail. The failure rate for non legally binding partnerships is even higher.
Of those marriages that don’t end, the remaining ones are, in the main, not blissfully happy either. More often, they are characterised by 2 people willing to just ‘put up’ with the other – or ones who stay locked in misery, argument or loneliness for decades. A far cry from where you started out with Love’s Young Dream…
But that won’t be Us, right?
Of course, when we are first together, and hear these statistics, rather like the idea of getting a serious illness, none of us consider that it could be US who are affected.
Because if you REALLY love each other then everything will be Ok forever, right?! (Spoiler Alert: No it won’t.)
Another statistic I’d like to share is that the average length of a marriage is just over 8 years. However, it’s reported that most people who are struggling in their marriages wait a WHOPPING 6 years to do something about it.
(You don’t need a Maths brain to tell you that that gives you just 2 good years before the shit hits the fan and you begin the slow decline towards divorce. You also don’t need to be a genius to realise that after 6 Years of sniping at each other, your chances of reconciliation won’t look all that great either).
Now, consider for a moment that if you thought you had heart problems – especially if you suspected a heart attack – you’d be seeking medical assistance immediately wouldn’t you?
However, when it comes to another matter of the heart: Your Marriage; it’s apparently considered OK to let it slowly atrophy, decay and wither over a matter of long YEARS.
“But it’s not an ACTUAL heart problem Holly! What’s the big deal?!”
Ok, I see your point – a failing relationship might not mean sudden death BUT! There is massive evidence to support the fact that a happy relationship is actually hugely interlinked with our long-term health and happiness…
The longest running study of its kind, the Grant Study, run by Harvard University since 1938, has observed participants’ lives over decades, in an attempt to uncover the keys to health, happiness & longevity.
An article in the Harvard Gazette reveals that “The surprising finding is that how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” says Robert Waldinger, director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
The article goes on to say that:
‘Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes. That finding proved true across the board.’
In fact the study has concluded that a good relationship is THE determining factor for a long, happy life and even that “The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80,”
Not convinced yet? A separate study in 2007 of 9000 people showed that:
‘Those who reported “adverse” close relationships had a 34% increase in the risk of developing heart problems”.
I could go on with the facts & figures but you get the idea: This matter of the heart IS just as important and just as pressing a need to get looked at as a physical heart condition; even if you find something only slightly out of the norm. The Mind/ Body connection is now a well accepted fact and it’s therefore no real surprise that heartache would cause, well, an actual heartache.
So, we’ve established that you can increase your odds for longevity & happiness by being in a good Relationship.
But how do you do that? Why are the Odds not stacked in our favour? And how can we change them?
Well, if you feel even slightly like I did: that you are betting on your Marriage (even if you don’t want to admit it!); then there are lots of factors at play here but there are a couple of big things I’d like to draw your attention to.
1. Mindset & Beliefs
In the case of our Mindset, we have been quite frankly brainwashed over time into believing that widely held belief:
‘Love is Enough’; ‘Love is the thing that will ensure your long term happiness! As long as you love each other everything will be Ok’.
Is that true though? Let’s break this down a bit.
- Yes, you do initially need to be very much in love with the person you choose to spend your life with.
- That Love does provide you with a compelling reason and a ‘Why’ to get through the bad times.
- Love will absolutely find a way BUT! It’s not Enough on its own to get you through a long-term, let alone life-long Relationship.
Look at it this way:
If someone has a natural talent for Tennis for example, they can’t just tip up at Wimbledon and expect to win. They need to prepare for the Tournament. Even those with natural talent need practice, skills, muscle memory & strategy. They need too understand the rules of the game.
They need a Game Plan.
If we characterise the fact that you 2 were madly in love with each other at the beginning, then this is your ‘natural talent’. To win the Tournament though (i.e. to have a successful marriage), you need MORE than that.
You need someone to equip You with a game plan.
The generally accepted Message that Love is Enough falls radically short of the truth. You need to learn how to live with someone long term because it’s not an innate skill and it does not come as naturally to us as breathing (though you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise).
2. Shame & Taboo
So what about Shame? Well, In just the past few years we’ve seen a revolution about the attitudes surrounding Mental Health. It’s been made abundantly clear that it’s OK to feel whatever you are feeling and there is no shame about that.
Men in particular were terribly affected by the culture of the stiff upper lip and being told to ‘man up’ but increasingly that has been replaced by the understanding that real men do express their feelings and it’s far, far better for your health if you do so.
This massive shift has occurred before our eyes in just a few short years. Long held out-of-date attitudes have been smashed and replaced with far better and more empowering ones.
And so I wonder why it’s still such a taboo to talk about your relationship problems?
Most people won’t admit to friends. and especially not their families, that they are struggling – even if those struggles are only small at the time. Hell, some people struggle to admit it to themselves…
Because in the case of families, we often fear the judgement that follows. Perhaps it presents an opportunity for them to say how much they never liked your choice of life partner anyway; or maybe your fear they will just make a pronouncement that your love is doomed… and ofc nobody wants to hear that.
In the case of our own self-talk, we have this strange idea that everything must always be perfect between us and if it’s not, that means we’re not right for each other.
In both cases there’s a strong feeling; One of our most fundamental emotions: Shame.
There is so much shame around the idea of a failing relationship. What seems crazy to me is that, even now, in the 21st century where we are more advanced than ever, we still hold onto this archaic viewpoint.
The antidote to this is understanding and opening up. Realising that: No, you are not the only ones in this predicament and Yes, there is a lot you can do about it.
Love is not enough and there’s no shame in that.
Are you Betting on your Marriage?
The attitudes & opinions of others often prevent us from taking action out in the real world to change the situation we find ourselves in.
For me, it’s a crying shame to let something that was so beautiful become overgrown, dilapidated and uncared for, largely because of what other people do think, or might think.
With the right tools and information, we can enjoy the beauty we experienced early on in our relationships for longer and actually, we can deepen our connection to reach new levels of bliss, when we become intentional about the process of building a relationship and not just throwing it together quickly and hoping it will work.
This situation in my own life, roughly equates to this:
The ill-fated House of Cards versus the well-conceived Stronghold.
For me, it always felt like, despite our love, we were missing something deeper, something to really ground us and ensure we lasted.
I could never be sure that it wasn’t just my insecurities talking; or my long held belief that if you’re really happy then something bad was bound to happen. Either way, our Marriage did eventually collapse.
But you know what? It was the best thing that could have ever happened to us.
Our Marriage problems not only allowed us to blow down the House of Cards and start again; it allowed us to look objectively and see what flimsy beginnings we had. Our foundation of ‘Love is Enough’ was simply never going to ensure that we could be happy long term. It’s only just enough glue to stop the house of cards from falling apart immediately much of the time!
Our problems gave us clarity.
We finally realised that you need an Education when it comes to lifelong commitment.
This is not an innate skill you are born with, it’s something you learn. If you’re lucky you have great role models when you are growing up that help you to see how to do it right, but the vast proportion of us don’t. We copy the quite frankly crappy example that we see as children.
So, to actually make it last, like a budding Wimbledon finalist, You need strategies, skills & practice. You need a Game Plan. And for me there is no shame in saying this – quite the opposite.
Why? Because I’m writing this looking out of the metaphorical window of my own Stronghold. A stronghold that was well conceived; which took time to build; that has deep foundations.
Frankly, it’s going to take an army of Trebuchets to take this sucker down!
I know the value of spending time building the Relationship you want. Not only so it’s something that suits you and that you are both completely happy with, but also so it can stand the test of time.
If anything you’ve read today has prompted a reaction in you (good or bad) and you’d like to reach out to me; please drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org